(Katerina Georgieva/CBC - image credit)
Hateful vandalism on the office windows of Windsor's We Trans Support agency has left staff feeling "disheartened," but serves as a reminder to them that there's more work to be done to encourage a change of heart in the region.
Alexander Reid, the organization's executive director, said he found a swastika and a homophobic slur written across the windows of the organization offices Monday and immediately reported the incident to Windsor police.
In an emailed statement, police confirmed that they are actively investigating the incident.
This isn't the first time the organization has faced this sort of discrimination. But for Reid, it's the first time he's witnessed it as the agency's lead.
"After reflecting on it, I thought to myself this is a opportunity for us to know as an agency that the work we're doing is important and there's still a lot of work to be done and the people in Windsor-Essex they still do need their minds and their hearts to be changed," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
At this time, he said that police have already checked nearby security footage and are working on gathering any potential suspects.
"It's definitely disheartening," Reid said. "It's upsetting to know people take time out of their day and they take time to do something that's just an expression of hate and an expression of ignorance."
For members of the community, Reid said he understands how the vandalism can be triggering, but that the agency is striving to educate and encourage growth in the community.
"We're always providing the most opportunities to be safe that we can and we can't protect everyone from the outside world but we can guarantee that inside our doors we maintain that code of conduct and we're always there to offer support, mental health services," he said.
Difficult to persecute someone for hate speech
Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor who specializes in hate speech, says the incident is "awful and disgusting."
He said he's unsure that Windsor-Essex is any different from other places when it comes to hate speech, but that there has been increase in this behaviour in general, specifically over the course of the pandemic.
"The main factors that have perhaps led to an increase in these sorts of incidents, acts are really social media in which it's much easier for hateful views to circulate and for individuals to encourage each other, embolden each other to engage in acts like this or generally just hold hateful views," he said.
Moon added that this may also be the result of certain political figures, who have expressed views that encourage these sorts of thoughts in others.
Unfortunately, he added, charging someone in an offence like this is difficult, mainly because the incident happened "anonymously."
Even then, if police were to have a suspect, "criminal prosecution for hate speech is not an easy thing," he said.
"It's a cumbersome process and conviction is not always straightforward," he said. "It seems to me that obviously the symbols and language used here ... [have] a pretty clear meaning to most of us and I think there's no question that it should be and is regarded as a hateful symbol."
The perpetrator, he said, could face a property offence charge but since the words and symbols are hateful, the person would likely be charged for breaking a hate speech law under the criminal code.
He said the hope is that prominent members of the community stand up and denounce the behaviour, encouraging conversation as to how to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.